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Seeds For Exchange Planted During Trip To Ireland

I have always wanted to go to Ireland. I had thought about exchanging places with an Irish massage therapist. I could wander about looking for signs of ancient relatives, leaving an Irish massage therapist to care for my clients while I was abroad doing the same for him/her.


September 28, 2009
By Verna sheridan rmt

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ireland_pic2.jpgI have always wanted to go to Ireland. I had thought about exchanging places with an Irish massage therapist. I could wander about looking for signs of ancient relatives, leaving an Irish massage therapist to care for my clients while I was abroad doing the same for him/her.

Events brought this goal to the forefront of my mind in the fall of 2004 and I was determined to jet off to Ireland, put my feet on the land of my ancestors and, at the very least, interview some massage therapists
to see if this goal was feasible.

There is not much time to find and interview anyone when attached to a fully scheduled bus tour, but I managed a couple of lovely chats. I had my interview questions at the ready, all typed out before I left Canada.

We had our first overnight stay in Killarney and, with some help from the hotel desk staff, I telephoned
a massage therapist, Mary Frances, in the morning. We set a time just before dinner to meet, as Mary Frances had a massage treatment booked nearby thereafter.

That day, our tour went out for the day to wind around and back along the Rings of Kerry. That, for sure, is a chiropractic-and-massage-treatment-needed afterwards slice of Ireland!

As planned, I met up with Mary Frances Foley, Massage Therapist, in the McGillicuddy Pub within the Killarney Court Hotel. I had sat waiting for her at a lovely little table near a huge working fireplace.

Mary Frances received her diploma after attending massage training in a Technical School of Commerce in County Cork. The course ran every weekend for one year. Alternatively, the same program was offered full days, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. for six months, resulting in the same qualifications.

A grade of 65-70 per cent is needed to pass the examination. Required subjects included Holistic & Body Massage, Anatomy and Physiology. At this time, there is no examination or provincial licence required to practice in any of the four provinces in Ireland. The only requirement is liability insurance and a business licence for the city/town in which the therapist practices.

Mary Frances was very interested in the fact that therapists in Canada are required to write provincial exams after completing a two-year, full-time program including school exams in order to obtain a licence to practice.
She was surprised to hear that we have many small local groups of therapists who meet regularly to learn, study, and support each other, and that these local groups are part of a huge provincial group which works constantly for our benefit.

Mary Frances is not aware of any provincial association to protect the massage therapists in Ireland and there is no College in Ireland to protect the public’s interest.

In her district of Killarney Munster there are only 10 recognized professional massage therapists, and their title is RMT. Mary Frances has no contact with them, as they have not created a local association. However, in Dublin, where there are greater numbers of therapists, there is a branch Mary Frances can telephone for information or for support.

ireland_pic_3.jpgTo continue to practice in Ireland, they require 30 continuing education credits over a three-year period.

Most continuing education courses must be approved from England to be recognized. Some of those courses include Reiki, Indian Head massage and other relaxation techniques mainly used in beauty salons, where massage is more widely recognized. Mary Frances says there is no certificate or tangible proof of registration from England.

Massage therapists in Ireland believe in the great power of touch for less stress. There is slow acceptance of the legitimacy of massage by doctors; however, physiotherapists do have broad recognition.

Mary mentioned that an Indian Head Massage course she took when it was being taught locally was not being recognized for insurance purposes out of England because she required a different syllabus. I was unable to clarify of what insurance she was speaking.

Some of the information seemed like a conflict, but we did our best to communicate.  At times it was difficult for me to understand exactly the answers I was hearing, and probably just as hard for Mary Frances to
interpret my questions.

Mary Frances works at hotels and has a small clinic/office above a shop in Killarney. She also makes out-calls. Most massage therapists work part time from hotels, where they maintain a massage treatment room, usually attached to the fitness or swimming pool section.

Mary Frances will also go to a hotel room to give a massage treatment. Often Mary Frances is asked if she includes sexual favours in her treatments. She finds this quite upsetting.

ireland_pic_4.jpgI asked her what procedure she was encouraged to follow when this happens. She told me that the teachers at the technical school suggested that the massage therapist give a shorter treatment time and explain to the client that only therapeutic massage would be done during the treatment.

I informed her that massage therapists in Ontario would immediately call a complete halt to the treatment after any improper question, and would be supported completely by both the Ontario Massage Therapy Association, and the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario.

Mary Frances has an information flyer listing her specialities, including Holistic Massage and Indian Head Massage. She does not carry her business cards and instead uses her photocopied flyers at the hotel. Her business cards serve as appointment cards and are kept at her office. Her out-call treatments are scheduled for 70 minutes at a cost of 40 Euro, which would be $64 Canadian.

Mary Frances plays music during her treatment and massages using sweet almond oil. Her clients sign a health release form, are informed of confidentiality and told that she reports to an informed professional body in Dublin. She keeps her files on a computer disc in her home.

After working for one year since her graduation, Mary Frances is getting busier, although she feels it has taken a long time to get established.

I was writing as quickly as I could and enjoyed the hour which was granted, although we would have liked to spend much more time together. I hope that my information exchanged with her will encourage her to approach the other therapists in her community. You can be sure if I had time, I would have loved to gather the massage therapists together for a uniting meeting.

My next opportunity to interview a massage therapist was in Sligo. I met with Ruth Hegarty, Ki Massage Therapist, in the leisure room of the Sligo Riverside Hotel.

Before our interview I had an opportunity to speak briefly with one of her clients as they were leaving. I asked only how they liked their treatment, and was told with a smile that it was ‘great.’ The treatment cost here is exactly the same as was Mary Frances Foley’s for a one hour treatment. Clients are required to leave their underwear on during treatments, and a medium-size towel is draped over the mid-body. 

Ruth had no examinations other than through her technical school of training, but has three framed diplomas on her clinic room wall. Those being her school graduation certificate, a Reflexology diploma and her business licence. Her clinic room is in a lovely little pine-walled cubicle, down a quiet hall from the exercise room of the leisure area in the hotel.

ireland_pic_6.jpgRuth took her massage therapy education over a one-year period of two-day weekends at a technical school in Sligo. She also has a diploma in Reflexology, which she accomplished over a one-year period of time on weekends.

Currently, Ruth is studying Shiatsu, which will take her three years to complete. I felt her approach to the profession was to strive for medical validation. 

Ruth is thirsty for more knowledge, and has become interested in nutrition. She was surprised to learn that it was part of my school curriculum here in Ontario. Ruth offers Reiki treatments and has taken both Reiki Level I & II. She was interested in talking about that, since I am a Level III Reiki Master/Teacher.  

Ruth has not invested in business cards, but uses a flyer to advertise her Reiki treatments as well as her other therapies which include Ki Massage, Swedish Massage, Reflexology, and Indian Head Massage.

According to her flyer, Ki massage is a combination of reflex massage and Shiatsu with aromatherapy oils to balance the ‘ki’ life force energy. The Indian Head massage mainly involves a stimulating massage of the head, but also includes face, back, neck and shoulders. Acupuncture points are used on the head and face to help clear blockages, so as to ease tension and stress. Ruth meets with fellow graduates on a regular basis at the school where she received her training. They stay current by studying techniques, reviewing treatments, and they also provide each other with peer support. 

Ruth’s next client was soon arriving, so unfortunately we had no more time to talk. It was frustrating not to be able to find more comprehensive information, to find a technical school or talk with a massage therapist in Dublin. My report is therefore only as factual as the information that I was able to gather from the massage therapists referred to in my interviews. 

 I was very happy to have met and chatted with Ruth and Mary Frances. I did my best to inform them about our provincial association, the College, our extensive training, and the benefit of having a registered licence to
practice. I hope that I planted some seeds of interest for them. 

The differences between Massage in Ireland and at home in Ontario made me realize that my dream for an exchange of practices would not currently be feasible. I do hope that it may happen at some point in the future when massage therapy is globally recognized. 

I was surprised how much my hands wanted to work on Ruth’s table. Then I remembered I was on a holiday, and instead went for a Guinness!


Submitted by Verna Sheridan, RMT
Class of ’91 Sutherland Chan
Practicing in Waterloo, Ontario


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